Robin Williams and Holy Repetition

Since Robin Williams’ tragic death, many have remembered his greatest acting scenes. Williams was an incredibly gifted actor who entertained, provoked, and challenged us with his craft. We laughed, cried, and reflected. Many have pointed to a scene in the movie Good Will Hunting as one of his greatest.

In the scene, Will Hunting, played by Matt Damon, is sharing with Sean Maguire, played by Williams, about the horrific abuse he endured as a child at the hands of his foster father. Sean references his file and then repeats over and over again, “It’s not your fault.” For Will to really hear, the message has to be told to him over and over again. Years of pain, years of putting barriers up between himself and others, must be broken through. After hearing “It’s not your fault” ten times, Will finally breaks down and internalizes the message. The repetition yields the intended result.

From an eternal vantage point, we are different from Will Hunting in that we are not innocent victims at the hands of a cruel and abusive father. Instead, we have committed holy treason against our loving and perfect Father. But we are like Will in that our hearts are prone to harden and wander. Our hearts are prone to try to achieve, prone to attempt to fix things ourselves, not prone to receive the unconditional grace and forgiveness that our pursuing Father offers us. Our hearts need constant reminding, constant preaching, about the marvelous grace of our loving Lord.

For this reason, the Scriptures are incredibly repetitive. There is a rhythm of holy repetition as God’s grace is heralded over and over again. The repetition is intentional because His grace is so amazing that it never grows dull and because we need to be constantly reminded. Martin Luther said, “Most important is that we know this article (the gospel) well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.”

We need to constantly hear that God’s grace is sufficient, that the work of Jesus is enough, and that God’s incredibly great love has been lavished on us. Our hearts, my heart, harden without it. The repetition is intentional and holy.

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.